Follow the Child

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Nine years ago today, I stopped in to observe the new Toddler Community that started two days before and as we begin a new school year in this beautiful community…I look back at that day.

When I arrived, the teachers were preparing to take the children on a walk. Most children were in the process of changing their indoor shoes to their outdoor shoes. There was no rush, as the children need time to practice doing this on their own with as little help as possible. Finally, they were all ready. There was only one little girl who was crying.

It was a beautiful sunny day. Just perfect! The sky was very blue and I was so excited to be a part of this with my favorite people – children.

The walk started across the back yard, then down the bank, across the driveway and down to the soccer field. There we stopped and Mrs. Castlen started blowing bubbles. This captured the children! All were engrossed in the activity except the one little girl that was crying.

After some time the big walk started – up the hill and into the woods. No one used their hands going up the bank and would have been insulted if helped. Straight up they went, including the reluctant child who was still crying. No one was talking – just moving along. This was a walk at their own pace.

One child stopped, looked up and said “sky.” Another child looked up and said, “we are in a great big forest.” I believe those were the only words spoken during the entire walk.

These explorers were very strong and could have walked for much longer. The little girl that was crying stopped. She began to move along as if she had a very special mission. She soon moved to the front of the group.

Many thoughts went through my mind on this journey through the woods. This is their most receptive time, a time with they learn a language without being taught, when they are constructing the adult they will one day become. This is a time when they need real experiences with the world around them. It is our responsibility to provide the opportunities for this exploration.

I had such a pleasant time walking with the children, who were my leaders. They will go on many walks through these woods and I want to be there.

Edith K. Overholser
The Duluth Montessori School

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